One Warm Word (2013) Korean Drama Review

Let’s go out to a theatre.

Hello. This is AKIA Talking now from Korea. It is snowing outside and it’s cold. Thus, I think I’ll go over a fuzzy “Adultery “ Korean show. This is a review of “One Warm Word” (2013).

Introduction
I have an affinity for stage plays. They is something special in the  manner in which a stage play delivers a story  different from other forms of entertainment that I cannot put my finger on. Even when stage plays are adapted into movies or TV shows, you know that they were originally written for the theatre somehow. Many view this as being a failure of adaptation. I do agree with them to a degree. This is especially true for those stage plays that rely on the energy of performers and the audience watching them live on stage. Musicals fall into this category.

However, I feel that this does not apply to small intimate plays. Small more character based plays seem to translate better to the recorded visual medium that are movies and TV shows. I think the words on the screenplay and the small number of actors’ performances, because of their intimacy, can more easily transcend the boundaries of the mediums.   This maybe truer for TV though.

Why am I talking about stage plays in a review of a Korean drama?
You will have to keep reading!


The Plot
One Warm Word” (2013) is a show about three couples and an affair. One couple is an older married one that seems to run like a well-oiled machine expected from the many miles on it. However, it has problems inherent to the time it had existed and the initial conditions that it was established in. Another couple is a new-ish couple that seems to be all waxed up and shiny but has more dents to it relative to the miles on it. The final couple is a very very very newly minted couple. Nothing more to say about those kids.

The show is about the two not new relationships coming to ahead as a man and woman from each relationship come together to form what is called “an affair”. And there is someone in a relationship that knows about it who is not the ones having the affair. And the new couple does nothing.

I may be giving a distorted image of the show at this point. This is not a thriller. No one is getting murdered. It is a character drama which I am trying to be somewhat vague about to avoid as much spoilers as possible.


The great first few episodes
Before anything, I will have to say that this show is good. It is a decent little character Korean drama. I never once thought that the show was in the gutters which is something exceptional for a Korean drama. At the same time, “One Warm Word” (2013) cannot ascend beyond the shackles of being a Korean drama.

If you have seen a lot of Korean dramas, you would have the experience of crossing your fingers and praying that the show does not crash and burn after about 7 episodes or so. And, in most cases, your prayers would not have been answered. I whispered the same prayer when watching “One Warm Word” (2013). The first 7 episodes were pretty good. I would even call them exceptional for a Korean drama.


The show, during its first 7 episodes, was a very nicely written character drama with great character scenes right out of the gate. Also, not like many Korean dramas, the minor characters were well used in their interactions with the lead characters. The real highlight of the show was the female components of the two not-new couples interacting. Their scenes were subtle but full of chemistry. To be frank, these two characters, played by Kim Ji-Su and Han Hye-Jin, had the best chemistry between tham in the show. In contrast, the actually couples’ chemistry were lessor in comparison. While Kim Ji-Su is definitely the better actress, Han Hye-Jin stood her ground. I think this was the best female duo in recent Korean dramas who were not setup as straight out friends.


Not everything was perfect though. There were issues with these episodes like an over dramatic mystery subplot that had no place being in the show. Also, the slowly emerging very very very newly minted couple stuff were just a hindrance but I could only tolerate them as pressure relieving story devices. I just prayed that these stuff were not signaling where the show was going towards. And I think only half of my prayers were answered.


What is behind the curtain…the stage curtain?
The first few episodes of “One Warm Word” (2013) were a pleasant surprised. However, in the deep backrooms of my mind, something was nagging on me and it was not the worries about where the show was going. Initially, I thought it was my lack of confidence regarding whether this show actually had something to say about these couples and marriage in general.

I had a conversation with a tourist friend who I know from twitter about this show recently. She gave this show a big recommendation since she said it was something new as the couples do not break up and the end. Spoilers? Well to me, this was the expected outcome of the show. If you exclude the two-dimensional outright villainous spouses and the already divorced prior to the start of the show couples, when do Korean dramas actually break up couples? Really? I was somewhat disappointed by what I heard but  I was okay with it. The show was not going to push the envelope. Not all shows need to do so.

Still something was nagging me. After some brainstorming, I came to the conclusion that I could not really put my finger on what the show wanted to be.  Beneath the surface of the typical Korean drama exterior, there was something not typical at all to the show. I just could not put my finger on what was hiding.

What is behind the curtain?

Going into episode 8 and 9, the show became less consistently good.  There were high peaks and deep valleys. However, from this, I  could recognize what was nagging me. I knew what the show was. Or, more accurately, I understood what the show initially started out as before it became “Korean drama-fied”.

One Warm Word” (2013) seems to have started out as two person stage play about a single married couple in my opinion. The high points of the show after episode 8 or so were all when the older couple was on screen. Their story seemed to be the soul of the show. And most of the scenes surrounding the older couple are structured as “two person stuck in a room” conversation pieces common to stage plays.

Interesting?

Once I got that insight, I knew what the show was. I had seen several of similar stage plays before. Rather than trying to provide a conclusion to the discussion, this type of stage shows focus on providing insight about relationship and bring the audience into the discussion. You see the internal struggle within the relationship and the weight of the history between the two people in a relationship. In “One Warm Word” (2013), all of this is on display via the spoken and unspoken dialogue. Compared to most Korean dramas which are blunt, this show has a lot of psychological subtext and character work done that is never seen but you know are there.

Did you notice all the Legos in the husband of older couple’s room?


Korean drama-fied…a dirty word
At this point, you would have noticed that I am not talking about the other two couples in the show. There is a reason for this. “One Warm Word” (2013) is not a show in which all three couple have equal weight and are in juxtaposition of each other. This could have been the case since, depending on the age of each relationship, the situation and problems of each couple would be different. Thus, by juxtaposing each relationship with the others, you could create a more complex discussion.

However, this is not the case of “One Warm Word” (2013). The other two couples are rather just plot devices that are not necessary but ended up visualized on screen because you are making a Korean drama that is not two and a half hours with an intermission. The younger couple is just there as setup to create the circumstances for the older couple to start their character discussion. Beyond that role, the younger couple does not have a function on their own. There is some effort to haphazardly build something into their relationship midway through the show but is not executed well.


As result, the younger couple scenes are in the valleys of this show in terms of enjoyment. This is actually a shame since during the first 7 episodes, the female of the younger couple was interesting to watch. The male never worked as a character and had not much to do. “One Warm Word” (2013) is actually very well divided 3 act narrative. Up to episode 7 or 8, the show is all about setup which is what is done in the first act. This is where the younger couple has a function. After episode 7 or 8, this is where the second act kicks in and the old couple really gets into it. Since they have nothing to do, the younger couple fall into the mopey dull whinny cliché story phase so common to Korean dramas. The actress Han Hye-Jin has nothing else to do other than look pale and puffy. That is the way Korean drama deals with agony. I hate when a Korean drama goes that direction. In addition, once the second act starts, the two not-new couples are in separate stories that do not intersect until they are reunited in the third act in a very melodramatic “makjang” manner.


So, do you want to talk about the very very new couple? I do not! This couple feels like they are from a very different show compared to the others. They are a couple from a  “makjang” like Korean family drama who are wacky and love lorn. The only function they have in the show is as a story device to bring back the two other couples in a collision course in the third act which starts around episode 15 that is unnecessary and cheesy. The older couple’s story would have reached the conclusion it would have reached without the very very new couple. In fact, it feels like somewhat of a cheat since it is an easy way out for the writer.

At the end
One Warm Word” (2013) feels like a two person character discussion stage play that was extended to become a Korean drama. This means that two other couples were added to the original core couple’s story. During the first act, the writer was somewhat successful in extension endeavor since the two female lead scenes were very well constructed.

However, after going into the second act, the writer seems to fall down on her face. There are a lot of ups and downs to “One Warm Word” (2013)  and all the downs are this extended filler materials. What alleviates this problem slightly is that the distribution of this filler is reasonably uniform by mixing the filler with the core story. Thus, the overall show is still good for Korean drama standards.   “One Warm Word” (2013)  does not say anything really out of the box about marriage in general but succeeds in showing the audience the inner workings of a married couple’s relationship even though you have to tolerate cliché Korean drama trash with your servings.

I give “One Warm Word” a solid B+.

Score: B+ or 7.5/10

As a side note, I think this show is a good candidate for a fan edit. I can just edit it as a two person play.



6 comments:

  1. I'm tempted to watch this because of my newfound big crush on Lee Sang Yoon, but there's something about Ku Hye Sun that I just don't like. After reading some of these reviews I'll take a pass. Darn you, Lee Sang Yoon, always starring in dramas with actresses that rub me the wrong way! Like Moon Geun Young and Goddess of Fire! Don't ask me why, they just do. Oh well, I like watching Liar Game right now.

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  2. Moon Geun Young is okay. I hate Jnag na ra

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  3. I was not a fan of Jang Na Ra, (Watching Successful Story of a Bright Girl was enough for me to decide.) but she's matured and good in Mr. Baek so I changed my mind a little. I still haven't seen Fated to Love you. She tends to mumble to herself…a lot! Don't know if it's part of her character in Mr. Baek or just her.

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  4. Ku Hye Sun the multi-talented actress in SKorea. Love her acting, she's not over acting; just fine. she's really beautiful with superb acting in 'Angel Eyes'

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  5. maybe you are just jealous of Ku Hye Sun being beautiful and with good chemistry with actor Lee Sang Yoon.... ??

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  6. yes ku hye sun is telant actress and her acting is good and really beautiful in angel eyes she is the best

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